A Smithtown park now bears the name of Peter Nowick Sr., a man who current town board members say paved the way for what the Town of Smithtown is today.
“He was one of the town’s founding =fathers … he served for near[ly] 20 years,” Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said. The councilwoman is related to the late Nowick Sr. through his son.
“He really shaped the town into the close-knit community it is today,” she said.
On May 8, the town board unanimously voted to rename Landing Avenue Park, and June 12 Nowick Sr.’s family members and friends along with local officials came together to celebrate Nowick Sr. and express how deeply he affected the makeup and ideology of the town.
“I remember my early days here,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Peter Nowick Sr. was one of the founding members of the town.”
Peter Nowick Sr. and his family moved to Smithtown in the 1930s. As a young man, he worked as a farmer on his father’s potato farm in Kings Park. Five days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps where he obtained the rank of major. He flew 35 combat missions in the Pacific theater during the war, including one where he was awarded a citation for leading his squadron on the deepest penetration into enemy territory by a fighter aircraft on a mission over Southeast Asia. Nowick was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, five Air Medals and the Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with two battle stars.
When he returned to Smithtown, Nowick was elected justice of the peace and later to the town board where he served for 20 years as chair on the town Planning, Engineering and Traffic Safety Committees. Nowick Sr. lived on Landing Avenue until he passed away in 2002 at the age of 84.
His niece Anna Mcauley remembers her uncle as a family man and a considerate public servant, who made himself available all hours of the day to help local residents.
“The name Nowick still has a zing in Kings Park from all the people who remember him and what he did for the town,” Mcauley said.
Councilwoman Nowick remembered her father-in-law as stingy, yet extremely gracious person.
“Peter Nowick Sr. never had change [for] a hundred dollar bill,” she said. “If he sent you off for lunch as a secretary, you never got your money back because he said he only had a hundred dollar bill. But if you needed help — if your house was going into foreclosure, anything — he’d come up with whatever you needed to help.”
Many years ago, Nowick Sr.’s friend, Robert Baffa, was visiting when he found the councilman’s old leather pilot’s hat. He jokingly put it on, remarking on how a simple hat was supposed to keep a pilot warm. Nowick Sr. asked Baffa if he wanted to keep it, and he still has it to this day.
“I think Peter would have really loved [the park’s renaming],” Baffa said. “I think he would have got a big kick out of it, seeing his name there like that.”